Mustafa Shakur: A Rookie in Name Only
By: Calder Hynes,

At only 26 years old, Mustafadeen Shakur has signed contracts with the Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Hornets, played for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 Summer League, and spent the 2009 preseason as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. Yet technically, he is still an NBA rookie. Reason being, he has never stepped foot on the court during an NBA regular season game.

It is (frustrating) at times, Shakur said. You get the itch to play all the time, just sitting there. I love being out there on the floor, who doesnt?

In pursuit of his dream to play in the NBA, the 6-3 guard from the University of Arizona has also journeyed to play professionally in Poland, Spain and Greece, where his achievements included winning the Polish National Championship and the Polish Supercup during the 2007-08 season.

The reason I went (overseas) was to play against the highest level of competition. The competition I saw was more experienced, and it is a much tougher game physically.

Shakur returned to the States last year after being drafted by the Tulsa 66ers of the National Basketball Associations Developmental League. The 66ers are owned by the NBAs Oklahoma City Thunder. The 2009-10 NBDL All-Star, who started all 47 games for the 66ers last season, was encouraged by the success other D-League players have had at the NBA level and saw it as his best chance at sticking in the NBA.

I felt like I would be able to open my game up and run NBA sets every night. We did everything mirroring what Oklahoma City does, so every night we got to see their sets. (Thunder head coach) Scott Brooks would come to practice and get involved, and their assistant coaches would show up too.

While the Philadelphia native eventually earned two separate 10-day contracts with the Thunder last season, he didnt figure into their long-term plans, and the Hornets signed him on Sept. 7. Now, the youngest of five siblings is trying to learn what he can from the other veteran guards on the roster specifically Chris Paul and Willie Green to continue his development as a player.

CP, I really like his vision, the way he sees the floor, Shakur said. Willie, hes a good defender on and off the ball. I like his intensity.

Between the resume, accolades and perspective, Mustafa Shakur sure does not sound like a rookie anymore.

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